Legendary head coach Roger Gorayeb has never seemed more desperate than he was after their Game One loss in the NCAA Finals to the College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers.
His San Sebastian College-Recoletos Lady Stags lost all that made them successful in the elimination round – their service reception was inconsistent and, more importantly, they became a one-lady show.
Reigning league MVP Grethcel Soltones, usually a picture of happiness on the court, could not hold in her frustration throughout the match. She scored a game-high 27 points but found no significant offensive help from her teammates, with the next best scorer managing just six markers.
“Coaching for the last thirty years, I had this feeling – a small doubt in my mind na ganito ‘yung mangyayari sa amin. Kaya Sabado pa lang pinaghandaan ko yan. Kaso ‘yung mga players, hindi ko alam kung bakit nagkaganyan,” said a visibly irked Gorayeb after the match.
“We became a one-man team. Si Grethcel, she cannot take it. ‘Yung mga nakaraan kasing laro, maganda ‘yung pinupuntos ni Grethcel. Pero sabi ko nga, ‘yung support kay Grethcel was very very important,” Gorayeb continued, adding that his players could not follow their game plan.
“Kanina, before the game, sabi ko sa kanila ‘You don’t need go score 30 or 20 points, kahit tig-five points lang bawat isa. Kahit 15 points mai-score ng iba sa isang set, ‘yung sampu kaya na ni Grethcel ‘yun.’ But to give Grethcel the responsibility to score all 25 points, hindi niya kaya ‘yun. ‘Yung desire nila nawala.”
Gorayeb continued, “dumating sa point na pati si Grethcel nahawa na, nawalan na din ng receive. Kahit sino ipasok ko, nage-error kahit sa simpleng bola lang. Wala silang sinabi kundi ‘Sorry, babawi ako’. Bakit ka babawi? Hindi naman sugal ‘to na tataya ako tapos mamaya babawi ako. Ayoko ng mga term na ganyan kapag naglalaro.”
During a broadcasted timeout, Gorayeb even went as far as to plead for someone to help out Soltones.
“Dumating sa point na nabigyan ng set si Grethcel na napakalayo na sa antenna, nagpupulumot na siya para mapalo ‘yung bola. Nagpapakamatay na ‘yung bata para makapalo, hindi pwede ‘yun. Dapat ang setter pinapadali ‘yung buhay ng spiker, yung digger ganon din sa setter.”
Gorayeb then compared his players to a child who had dropped a lollipop they were licking. Instead of picking it up, cleaning it, and moving on, his players cried and looked and for someone to comfort them.
“Nalaglag ‘yung lollipop niyo, nagiiiyak kayo, naghahanap kayo ng susumbungan. Sinong sasasaklolo sa kanila? Si Grethcel. But she can only take so much.”
But Gorayeb is hopeful that this team’s first taste of a loss can teach more than hurt their confidence.
“When you win, it only boosts your confidence. In losing you learn many things – doon ka tatapang. Kapag nananalo ka lang, mahihirapan ka magisip ng paraan kung paano lumaban kapag may nag-challenge sayo. ‘Yun ang naging problema namin. Losing is learning. Winning is boosting. Parang naghihintay kami ng bomba na gigising sa amin, ang masama ngayon kami nasabugan, ngayon namin kailangan gumising. Walang yabang ang mga player ko. Hindi lang nila na-handle ng maayos ‘yung mga panalo.”
Gorayeb also realizes that the thrice-to-beat incentive his team earned after sweeping the elimination round is about to come in handy.
“Ang maganda, kahit natalo kami ngayon, nawala lang ‘yung lamang namin. Kailangan na namin manalo on Friday para lamang na ulet kami,” a frustrated Gorayeb closed.
A Game Two loss on Friday, 4 p.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre could very well seal the deal and prolong San Sebastian’s unusually long title drought by at least another year.
Gorayeb rarely calls out his players like this. It’s now up to the Lady Stags to respond.